Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant famously faced each other in the 2001 NBA Finals
Allen Iverson Kobe Bryant
Credit: Michael Bezjian/Getty; Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic

NBA Hall of Famer Allen Iverson opened up about his favorite memories of Kobe Bryant ahead of a public memorial taking place to honor the Los Angeles Lakers legend, his 13-year-old daughter and seven others who perished in a Jan. 26 helicopter crash.

In an interview with The Player’s Tribune, Iverson recalled playing with Bryant during the 2008 All-Star Game, which was the only time the two would be teammates during their storied careers.

“Probably that one time I got the chance to play with Kobe,” Iverson, 44, said of his favorite memory of Bryant. “Do you know what I mean? It was always a battle between me and him.”

“Then, I had a chance to be on the same team with him,” he continued. “I mean looking back on it, that was it. That was it, just having the chance to play with my guy. Not knowing that, that would be the only time to play with him.”

Iverson’s Philadelphia 76ers and Bryant’s Lakers famously faced each other in the 2001 NBA Finals. Los Angeles eventually won the championship, but not before the 76ers handed the Lakers their first and only loss of the playoffs that year.

Kobe Bryant Allen Iverson
Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson
| Credit: Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty

Iverson — who was selected 12 picks before Bryant in the 1996 NBA Draft — also shared his earliest memory of hanging out with the five-time champion.

“The first time me and him hung out, he took me out to eat in L.A.,” Iverson told The Player’s Tribune. “And I told him I was going to the club and he asked me what I was going to do. And then I told him I was going to the club and he told me he was going to the gym.”

“That was just him, that was ‘The Mamba,’ ” Iverson continued, referencing Bryant’s nickname. “You know, he was younger than me but I actually looked up to him and his greatness.”

During the 2020 All-Star Game, Iverson was seen paying tribute to the late NBA legend by wearing Bryant’s No. 8 jersey, along with a Lakers hat.

Iverson’s comments come ahead of a public memorial set for Monday at Staples Center to honor Bryant, his daughter, Gianna, as well as victims John AltobelliKeri AltobelliAlyssa AltobelliSarah Chester, Payton ChesterChristina Mauser, and pilot Ara Zobayan. No other details surrounding the event have been announced.

The date holds special significance for the Bryant family: Gianna wore jersey No. 2 at the Mamba Sports Academy, and Bryant wore No. 24 in the latter half of his career.